WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosans to make up half of Sonoma Clean Power board


Starting this week, half the governing board overseeing the launch of Sonoma County’s public power agency will consist of elected officials based in Santa Rosa.

The shakeup, driven by moves to fill Sonoma Clean Power’s expanded eight-person board, will retain two Santa Rosa-based county supervisors — Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin — and add two Santa Rosa city council members.

The central role Santa Rosa played recently in deliberations about the agency partly fueled the county’s nominations, said David Rabbitt, the Board of Supervisors chairman, who chose Zane and Gorin for the county’s two regular seats.

“I want to make sure we’re all working well together, and I think we are,” Rabbitt said of the power board.

power linesAlso set to be seated at the power agency’s Thursday meeting are representatives from Cotati, Sebastopol and Sonoma.

On the sidelines, however — bypassed for any county role on the power agency board, regular or alternate — is embattled Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who has dropped out of public business since his July 13 arrest on suspicion of burglary and prowling.

The 32-year-old west county supervisor, whose case is in the hands of prosecutors, is undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse, according to his lawyer and advisers, and could be away from his job until mid-August. He has been a passionate advocate for the power venture, envisioned as a competitive and greener alternative to PG&E, the region’s main electricity supplier.

Yet Carrillo now faces at best a marginal role guiding its launch, his first significant omission from county business and likely a bruising one because he had been highly involved in the initiative’s formal development, starting with a county study three years ago.

With the legal cloud hanging over Carrillo — his next court date is Aug. 30 — and his extended absence from county business, Rabbitt said he had no other choice.

“While there might be other work that can wait, in this particular case, there is a need to have some consistency going forward as soon as possible,” Rabbitt said. “It’s not meant to be punitive. It’s really meant to do what’s best for Sonoma Clean Power.”

In what could be an emotionally charged moment Tuesday, Rabbitt has planned to make a statement about Carrillo’s arrest at the beginning of the Board of Supervisors meeting, the first since June.

“You can’t just start the meeting and pretend everything is the same,” Rabbitt said. “It’s not.

“Going forward, I just want to say that this happened. It’s not OK — it’s tragic all around — and now we need to get to work,” he said.

In the meantime, Zane and Gorin said they were pleased to have a significant say in the power agency’s launch.

Zane acknowledged in greater detail Friday her behind-the-scenes role in arranging a last-ditch deal three weeks ago that paved the way for Santa Rosa’s participation.

“We were strategizing over the weekend,” she said, about a settlement that evolved in a July 7 meeting between power agency staff and Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley.

“I was being a real advocate for the program and letting (Santa Rosa council members) know that I would do everything in my power to have them join us,” Zane said.

Gorin, who in June stepped down from the power board to make way for Windsor Vice Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, acknowledged the various factors at work in her abrupt return.

Carrillo’s legal troubles were at the top of that list.

“That certainly is a factor,” Gorin said. “Before all this happened, I would not have anticipated that I’d be appointed to this authority.”

She also cited her role representing Sonoma Valley, Rabbitt’s full plate as chairman and his duties on other regional boards and Supervisor Mike McGuire’s growing oversight of county road issues.

“I think the board and the chairman right now is thinking about Efren’s responsibilities and how best to represent the county on a temporary and long-term basis,” Gorin said. “I’m very aware that responsibilities are shifting.”

Zane, who was first elected along with Carrillo in 2008, was tight-lipped speculating about how the sideline role would sit with Carrillo.

“I can only tell you that he was deeply invested, as I was, to make this program be successful and that he had put a lot of time into it,” she said.

The Santa Rosa City Council is set to decide at its Tuesday meeting on its appointees to the power board.

Sources indicated that likely choices include Bartley, the mayor; Jake Ours, who has served on a public-private steering committee for the venture; Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom; and Robin Swinth, a former engineer who served on the city’s Board of Public Utilities.

Gary Wysocky and Julie Combs, early advocates for many of the governance changes adopted for Santa Rosa’s sake last week, are on the council minority, making them outside contenders.

Each regular seat is backed by an alternate, meaning a total of four elected officials from Santa Rosa and the county each could be involved in some way.

Once a sixth city joins Sonoma Clean Power, the number of regular board seats for Santa Rosa and the county would drop to one each, equal to the rest of the cities.

Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Petaluma have elected to remain on the sidelines for now. With all eligible cities in the mix the agency would be overseen by a nine-member board.

Among the three other cities being seated Thursday, the regular appointees are Cotati Mayor Mark Landman, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes and Sonoma Councilman Steve Barbose.

The power agency’s 3:30 p.m. meeting is to be held in the Board of Supervisors chambers and will include a presentation on the first-year budget.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

6 Responses to “Santa Rosans to make up half of Sonoma Clean Power board”

  1. RICHARD says:

    Santa Rosa has gotten too big. It’s like a black hole distorting everything around it.

    LAFCO should not allow it to get bigger. Roseland should become it’s own city and it should include automobile row aka Corby Av.

    Santa Rosa is the Chicago of Sonoma County.

  2. Reality Check says:

    Well, this certainly captures what’s important here, how political power is divvied up.

    Other questions, such as is the so-called green power really clean, or what happens to rural areas as PG&E’s service area is cherry-picked away, just don’t merit much attention or interest.

    In the words of Shirlee Zane, let the “strategizing” continue.

  3. James Bennett says:

    Another soft pedal piece to make the abnormal seem normal.

    The march to install ICLEI’s model for planning, education, water and energy; everything.

    Paying for their totalitarian model right in front of our eyes.

    Did you see Mike blow up the dams Thompson’s Bill to “set aside” 350,000 acres from Lake Berryessa to Mendocino County?

    This stuff isn’t on the pages of their text any more, it’s hitting home.

    Your home.

  4. Phil Maher says:

    This internalized, crony appointment process has to stop. We get the same people making all the decisions, all the time. The same people whose policies and agendas have screwed up almost everything they’ve had their hands in. The important question for the people is; who will represent us? We want and deserves to elect our own representatives to the citizens’ advisory board, not to have friends and even more cronies from the cocktail circuit chosen for us.

  5. observer says:

    Sonoma Clean Power is County business as usual, on a bigger scale.

    County business as usual is recycling public funds to 50 or so campaign contributors and influencers who control the County of Sonoma.

    Sonoma Clean Power, with revenues of $180 million and a contracting budget of up to $200 million a year, is an epic prize; and may eventually exceed in magnitude—and damage—our pensions and roads crises.

    The Supervisors are hand puppets in this theatre of fraud. The Water Agency is paymaster and bagman. County Counsel is “legalizer”, opining that everything is on the up and up. The Auditor Controller is a front man, lending a spurious air of fiscal probity to these proceedings while the public’s designated watchdogs—the DA and the Grand Jury—continue their languorous snooze. And our Fourth Estate, our matchless all seeing guardian the Press Democrat, hurls a public sinner under the bus while pretending the bus itself—County governance—is in sure and steady hands.

    The fact that the Water Agency’s founding document for Clean Power—a feasibility study one can read at http://www.scwa.ca.gov/files/docs/carbon-free-water/cca/CCA%20Feasibility%20Report%20101211.pdf – blatantly excludes the County’s low cost provider of electricity from its array of partners or provider prospects seems to have been overlooked by the City of Santa Rosa. Given the Water Agency’s history of payoffs to a Santa Rosa City official, one wonders what was promised in the backroom consultations between the County and the City.

    Sonoma Clean Power won’t provide any rate advantage to PG&E; won’t lower local CO2 emissions, and the only jobs added will be the new Sonoma Clean Power staff.

    Adding injury to insult, the Water Agency, Board of Supervisors, Auditor Controller, County Counsel and Clean Power staff are complicit, already, in a new series of bad acts. They’re undertaking to bury a failed pilot project for Sonoma Clean Power called Sonoma County Energy Independence (“SCEIP”), in the financials and cash flows of Sonoma Clean Power. The County put $60 million into SCEIP to achieve 20 new jobs a year and one half of one percent reduction of CO2 reduction relative to the County goal of 1.3 million tons a year. The County’s attempt to refinance this investment met with a blacklisting by federal housing authorities. SCEIP now loses $3 million a year and will do for another 20 years, doubling the current $60 million waste of funds in SCEIP.

    These facts, hidden by the County, are a preview of a Sonoma Clean Power born in deception and destined, potentially, to the straw that breaks the County’s fiscal back in the wake of pensions and roads.

    Vallejo, Stockton, San Bernandino, Detroit.

    Sonoma County.

    By Andrew Simpson

  6. Emerson Burkett says:

    Hmmmm, is that a skunk I smell? If it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk and walks like a skunk, why, then it must indeed be a skunk. Think this was the plan all along? Who knows, the folks with the power will never say. Let me get this straight; the City of Santa Rosa will now have Majority control of the Sonoma Greed Power (with apologies to Steveguy for using his words for the power agency). Two Santa Rosa Councilpersons and two Santa Rosa Based Supervisors with long and deep ties to the city. Oh well, I will Opt-out anyway, but will most likely get stuck with costs attached to my Property Tax bill.